The Songs of Elgar and Vaughan Williams

Both Elgar and Vaughan Williams wrote songs throughout their creative lives, including many fine works in each case. The purpose of this talk is to compare their approaches to song writing and we hope to demonstrate that, underlying the obvious differences in style, their approaches have a great deal in common.

Not surprisingly, in sixty minutes, we do not plan to discuss all 65 or so of Elgar's songs and the approximately 80 songs by Vaughan Williams. We will start with a brief survey of each composer's song output, highlighting characteristic features of their songs as well as drawing attention to areas of their output that have been neglected. We will then move on to the comparison of the two composers' approaches to song-writing, focussing in particular on their techniques of word setting.

The songs of Edward Elgar

It is often said of Elgar's songs that they are not the most important part of his repertoire and, set against the symphonies and other major works such as Gerontius, maybe that is true but so often with composers the songs are little laboratories in which ideas can be tested out - the song is after all the perfect opportunity to write a miniature. We found, when we looked at Elgar's songs, that they exhibit countless foretastes of the larger works with which Elgar is more often associated and that many of them are little masterpieces in their own right.

One reservation frequently cited in respect of Elgar's songs is that there are no completed song cycles for voice and piano, or indeed any other recital combination. In the course of our studies, however, we have concluded that this reservation is, in fact, not strictly true. This is not to say that we have discovered any previously unknown songs - would that we had! - but we have established that Elgar's one completed song cycle, the orchestral Sea Pictures, enjoys a valid alternative existence as a recital work for voice and piano.

The orchestral song cycle Sea Pictures was written for the 1899 Norwich Festival and given its first performance by Clara Butt on 5 October 1899 with Elgar conducting. We started studying these pieces with a view to preparing them for performance with orchestra but were very pleasantly surprised to see how little the piano parts resembled the orchestral reductions that are such a nightmare to most pianists, where every note of the orchestral texture seems to have been dumped on the piano staves. On the contrary these looked like real piano parts.

The opening of Sea Slumber Song, for example, is a masterclass in the use of piano sonority. Elgar's pedal markings are very definite, summoning up a wonderful aura of sound from the instrument. Typical is the pedal mark over bars 4 and 5.

Ex. 1: Elgar - Sea Pictures - Sea Slumber Song, bars 4 and 5

Click here to hear Ex. 1 performed by Claire-Louise Lucas (mezzo-soprano) and Jonathan Darnborough (piano)

The whole thing coalesces into a gentle rocking which, of course, is highly appropriate to the idea of the motion of the sea. In this song, and throughout the whole set, we found that the piano writing was absolutely idiomatic, conjuring the very best and most interesting, vivid sounds from the instrument.

We then discovered that the London premiere of Sea Pictures was, in fact, given by Clara Butt, again accompanied by Elgar but this time at the piano. On that occasion they apparently only played four of the songs - and although we do not have documentary proof of this, we are almost certain that the song omitted on that occasion would have been The Swimmer; which is undoubtedly the most orchestral in its nature.

The whole issue of what constitutes orchestrally conceived music or pianistically conceived music is quite a complex one; particularly in the nineteenth century when many composers composed at the piano - it was the tool of their thoughts. That didn't mean to say that as they produced ideas at the piano they weren't imagining them on the oboe, the violins, whatever it happened to be. They could indeed be writing at the piano, but with a very strong - one imagines, in Elgar's case, an absolutely precise - image of the orchestral sounds. Nevertheless, the music is initially conceived with the aid of the piano and the orchestration process is a separate stage that comes afterwards. This may help to explain why the piano writing here is so effective.

The Swimmer can be described as the most orchestral in its feel, mainly because the piano has to execute many tremolandi - normally the preserve of the orchestral strings. On the other hand, the piano is very good at tremolandi as well and, if one were to start discriminating against piano works that used this effect, then Liszt's B minor Sonata would be one of the first casualties, which would be rather unfortunate.

It is a matter of record that Elgar played the piano for performances of Sea Pictures with a number of different singers so we can assume that he felt this version to be a valid concert work in its own right. The Sea Pictures give us Elgar's song writing in his prime and, certainly from our point of view, it gives us a wonderful recital work.

There is a further, very important, point to all this. When one hears Sea Pictures in this different format, with the piano accompaniment, it casts a new light on the songs that we thought we knew so well from their orchestral version.

No better illustration of that new light could be found than to play Where Corals Lie on the piano at crotchet=56. This really does not work very well on the piano. In the intimate context of a recital hall, and with the immediate production of the notes on a piano, this tempo feels too slow. In recital, we perform this song at around crotchet=70 - more than 10 beats a second faster than Elgar's metronome mark, which is designed for a symphony orchestra in a symphony hall where the whole sound is bigger and some of the instruments literally take longer to speak.

With all of the songs the voice and piano version of Sea Pictures is extremely effective in its own right and a very interesting foil to the form in which we normally hear the piece. The overriding difference between this and the orchestral version is, not surprisingly, a greater feeling of intimacy throughout the work as a whole.

The songs of Ralph Vaughan Williams

In the case of Vaughan Williams quite a number of songs are very well known, for example Linden Lea (1901); The Vagabond (1904); The Water Mill (1922-5). More of Vaughan Williams's songs are considered to be an important part of his output than is the case with Elgar and it is certainly true that Vaughan Williams did leave some more substantial song cycles than Elgar - if one didn't perform the Sea Pictures with voice and piano one would not have anything comparable to The House of Life (1903) or Songs of Travel (1904).

Vaughan Williams's lifelong study of folk song is inevitably an influence on his own song writing. Folk songs tend not to have very wide pitch ranges and Vaughan Williams, no doubt as a result of his immersion in this music, tends likewise to write within a narrower pitch range than one finds in the late Romantic Lied, which is the background to Elgar's song writing technique.

Notwithstanding the popularity of certain songs within Vaughan Williams's output there are some significant works that have been rather neglected. This applies particularly to the works in which Vaughan Williams is exploring sparser textures, such as Along the Field (1927) for voice and violin and the Blake Songs for voice and oboe (1957). This preoccupation with paring down the musical material to something absolutely minimal, but maximally eloquent, is also seen in the Four Last Songs (1954-8), wonderful settings of poems by Ursula Vaughan Williams, but again slightly more elusive, slightly less well known, less popular.

Even when Vaughan Williams is writing for the conventional combination of voice and piano some of his songs seem to have fallen by the wayside. For example, there are two songs from the Fredegond Shove settings of 1925 that have been entirely eclipsed by their two more famous neighbours. The four Fredegond Shove settings are Motion and Stillness, Four Nights, followed by The New Ghost and The Water Mill. The Water Mill is very well-known, having been extremely popular among amateur singers. Its companion piece, The New Ghost, an extraordinarily evocative piece of writing, is considered to be one of Vaughan Williams's finest songs and yet the first two songs in the set, Motion and Stillness and Four Nights, are almost universally dismissed. Admittedly, they are short and they might seem, on paper, to be slighter works by comparison with the last two songs of the set but, whilst they are very different from the latter pair, each of these two songs is a miniature masterpiece. Furthermore, they act as a perfect foil for the others in the set.

Motion and Stillness is very short, very fleeting and elusive. This is a piece which, on the page, does not seem to do very much and yet it is a perfectly crafted example of one aspect of Vaughan Williams's musical language. Indeed this is the important thing about these two songs that, taken together with their more famous companions, they provide a complete snapshot of the mature Vaughan Williams's musical personality.

How is it that Motion and Stillness should appear to be so slight and yet actually be such an eloquent song? In answering this question one is reminded of Puccini's music, so often criticised in some quarters as clichéd. What Puccini does - and this is his particular genius - is to provide a vehicle for a great singer, for a great voice to display its full powers of expression. In just the same way Motion and Stillness simply does not come alive until a voice fills out the vocal line - no amount of playing it through on the piano can substitute for this.

Ex. 2: Opening of Motion and Stillness

Click here to hear Ex. 2 performed by Claire-Louise Lucas (mezzo-soprano) and Jonathan Darnborough (piano)

Furthermore, whilst it is a simple vocal line in its contours, it is far from simple to sing. At the required tempo, Lento, extraordinary control of breath and tone are demanded and without these the song will not "come off".

The other piece in the set which suffers an unjustified neglect is Four Nights. It sounds almost as though Vaughan Williams has simply taken a folk song and added a piano accompaniment. The vocal line is modal and the melody shapes are very characteristic of folk song, e.g. Ex. 3.

Ex. 3: Vaughan Williams: Fredegond Shove songs - Four Nights, bars 26-8

This folk-like appearance, however, is very deceptive because this isn't a folk song by any means. For one thing the song routinely modulates between modes - unthinkable in a genuine folk song - and then there are the professional demands that Vaughan Williams makes upon his singer's breath control.

Ex. 4: Vaughan Williams: Fredegond Shove songs - Four Nights, bars 2-7

Click here to hear Ex. 4 performed by Claire-Louise Lucas (mezzo-soprano) and Jonathan Darnborough (piano)

The opening of the song (Ex. 4) is a good example of the long phrases that Vaughan Williams asks of his singer throughout. Fredegond Shove's poem is characterised by long phrases and Vaughan Williams is too good a setter of words not mirror this in the music. The opening phrase sets the first two lines of the poem but there is no comma to indicate a breath until the end of the second line.

Having set the first line as he has done, Vaughan Williams might perhaps have then used the same three crotchet rhythm to end the phrase as a whole (Ex. 5).

Ex. 5: Vaughan Williams: Fredegond Shove songs - Four Nights, opening phrase as it might have been set

In fact he extends the rhythm at this point (see Ex. 4) at the end of what is already a long phrase. The singer needs a lot of breath to perform this phrase but it should not show. On the contrary, the interpreter should make the whole song sound simple and artless even though it is anything but.

Vaughan Williams did, of course, work a great deal with amateur musicians, especially singers, and he was passionately committed to providing music which amateurs could perform. This has perhaps led to a misconception about his songs - that they are all intended to be within the scope of the amateur performer. Whilst it is true to say that Vaughan Williams's songs do tend to have a narrower range than those of Elgar, that does not necessarily mean to say that every song he wrote is actually within the reach of the amateur singer. Both Motion and Stillness and Four Nights are cases in point, where the technical demands are not those of finding high notes or very low ones, but of sustaining and controlling very long breaths.

As one pursues Vaughan Williams into his more rarefied moments, for example the opening of The New Ghost; the opening of Procris (from Four Last Songs, 1954-8); and, indeed, many of the Blake Songs, the singer has to have an almost instrumental control of tone. These are very much "art" songs, written with highly trained voices in mind.

It is important to remember that both Elgar and Vaughan Williams wrote songs for amateurs and professionals and they both, in their different ways, can make significant technical demands on their performers.

Comparing Elgar's and Vaughan Williams's approaches to song writing

In comparing the songs of these two composers it is easy to draw distinctions between them. One contrast has already been made above, in respect of the pitch ranges of their songs. When they write specifically for amateurs they both restrict their pitch ranges accordingly but in their songs for trained voices Elgar tends to explore wider extremes of pitch than does Vaughan Williams. The use of modal melodies and folk-like phrase shapes give the songs of Vaughan Williams significant differences in style from those of Elgar whose musical language is so clearly rooted in the German Romantic tradition. Nevertheless, in our comparison of their songs, we intend to emphasise the many important qualities that these composers have in common and we will start by discussing their "Englishness".

"Englishness" in music is a very elusive thing, and all the more so when we find two composers who are so quintessentially English, as we feel them to be, and yet who are so clearly very different in the sounds that they create. When one approaches this question from the point of view of song writing, there is perhaps an advantage because we see straight away the intimate connection between the language itself and a national character in the music. If one considers composers, such as Mussorgsky, Debussy and Janácek, who have striven to mould their music to their native language, we see that the rhythms and inflections of the language infiltrate the music and are a major factor in its distinctive character. Naturally, this is the case with the folk songs of any given area and if we look at composers who are influenced by their folk songs then we find a national flavour seeping in through that direction.

Even if we discount the influence of folk song, as we really have to do with Elgar, there is still the language itself. In the comparison which follows we examine several songs by the two composers and tease apart how they respond to the language, how they set it. Word setting is a great art, and a very difficult one, because the internal logic of a text is very often in conflict with the internal logic of the musical ideas that have been set up. One has only to think of all those hymn tunes where verses 2 to 7 don't fit the tune anything like as well as verse one. That simple example perfectly illustrates the way in which these two logics can pull apart.

Both Elgar and Vaughan Williams set the English language with great sensitivity and one might be tempted to ask why, if this is the case, their vocal lines are not more similar in shape. Whilst stylistic differences obviously play a part in this the answer to this question lies, at least partly, in their choice of texts. To find a vocal line by Vaughan Williams that has soaring arches of quasi-Elgarian melody, one has to look, for example, at his early setting of Tennyson's The Splendour Falls (c.1896).

Ex 6: Vaughan Williams, The Splendour Falls

Later in his career, however, Vaughan Williams does not set Tennyson, just as Elgar does not set Walt Whitman. On looking down the lists of their chosen poets one sees their different personalities and their different preoccupations perfectly reflected. So when they are setting those different poets - each composer with his own meticulous but personal approach to word setting - they arrive at vocal lines that are different because their starting point was different.

We will start our comparison of the two composers' approaches to word setting by looking, briefly, at their willingness, or otherwise, to make changes in their texts. It is quite common for composers to repeat or omit phrases, even whole verses, of a text to suit their musical purposes but, clearly, in doing so they may irrevocably upset the structure of the original text. Elgar more or less says as much in his oft-quoted remark,

"It is better to set the best second-rate poetry to music, for the most immortal verse is music already."
but this did not prevent him, in the song In Moonlight (1904), from taking a hatchet to the words of no less a poet than Shelley.

Perhaps he viewed the poem in question, To Jane, as a second rate offering and, as such, fair game for adaptation to his needs. He might well have held this view since he would probably have been aware that the poem was only partly written by Shelley, in 1832, and was completed by Mary Shelley in 1839.

In Moonlight is an unusual song for Elgar in that he wrote the melody first - as the Canto Popolare from the middle section of the overture In the South (1904) - and was then persuaded that he should put words to this melody. This was not a thing that he undertook lightly and he did so only because he found some words that really made a remarkably close fit to his melody. They are not a perfect fit, however, and that is what makes it such an interesting example because it teaches us a lot about Elgar's approach to word setting.

In Elgar's song the line at the end of the first verse reads:

Ex. 7: the line showing Elgar's setting

In the original poem, however, the line was,

What is particularly interesting is that, had Elgar left the text as had then he could have written

Ex. 8: the line showing how the syllables fit better

which actually fits his melody better. So why has Elgar made this change?

The answer lies in the fact that Elgar is using only the second and fourth verses of the poem. The first verse of the poem describes how Jane's voice adds life and beauty to the strings of the guitar as she plucks them.

Without the context of verse one, quoted above, the poem's second verse (verse 1 of the song) makes more sense with "has" than "had then". The liberty that Elgar takes with the text here is forced upon him by his initial liberty of setting only two of the four verses.

From Elgar's point of view four verses would perhaps have made the song longer than he wished it to be but his decision to omit verses one and three of the poem has another very straightforward explanation - they simply do not fit the pre-existing melody. The Canto Popolare melody from In the South starts on a downbeat and, therefore, requires a text with a stress on the first syllable. The poem's second and fourth verses start with syllables that can reasonably be stressed - although in each case the main stress of the first line lies on the third syllable. Verses one and three of the poem, however, both begin with the word "The" and have their first stress on the second syllable, e.g.

from the first verse of the poem.

Simply to plug this text into the Canto Popolare would be unthinkable to someone with Elgar's sensitivity to text.

Ex. 9: First line of Shelley's poem set to Canto Popolare with no upbeat

Elgar could only have set this text by adding an upbeat to his Canto Popolare melody, for example:

Ex. 10: First line of Shelley's poem set to Canto Popolare with upbeat C

This apparently small modification changes the character of the melody significantly and if Elgar even considered this option he obviously rejected it.

Vaughan Williams, likewise, is selective when he is setting texts. He famously left out two verses of A. E. Housman's poem "Is my team ploughing?" in his setting from On Wenlock Edge, much to the chagrin of the poet himself. Housman's comment was, apparently, "How would he like it if I left out two bars of his music?"

It is quite possible, however, that Vaughan Williams did try to set these two verses but could not find appropriate music for their essentially mundane nature - the omitted verses deal with football. The main function of music, when setting words, is to intensify the emotions contained in those words and, from the songwriter's point of view, these two verses detract from the concentration of emotion on the dead man's work, his girl and his friend. Alternatively, Vaughan Williams's action may have been that of a critic. The two verses omitted are arguably weaker than the rest of the poem.

We now turn to the use of syllabic word setting and its alternatives in the songs of the two composers.

When words are set to music they are heard most clearly when set syllabically - that is to say with one note to each syllable. So, for example, recitative in opera is all syllabic because it is in the recitative that the narrative details are imparted to the audience. The greatest clarity of text will be achieved if the sung rhythm is closely modelled upon speech rhythms, as is also the case with recitative. There are, however, occasions when a composer will wish to depart from syllabic setting, speech rhythms or both, for expressive purposes.

There are two fundamentally different ways in which a syllable may acquire more than one note. The first way may be described as incidental and involves no change of the syllable's speech rhythm. In the second way, which may be described as melismatic, the syllable is lengthened relative to its natural speech rhythm.

An example of the incidental addition of extra notes to syllables may be seen in Ex. 7. The word "thy" in b. 16 is set to two semiquavers and "soul" in b. 19 to a dotted quaver and a semiquaver. These extra notes do not, however, alter the natural speech rhythm of the text which would make "thy" a quaver (= two semiquavers) and "soul" a crotchet (= a dotted quaver plus a semiquaver).

This device is a commonplace of song writing, to be found in centuries of word setting. It allows the composer greater melodic freedom whilst barely compromising the clarity of the text. We find it in the songs of both Elgar and Vaughan Williams but, interestingly enough, Vaughan Williams is noticeably more restrained in its use. This generalisation is holds good throughout his career - in fact Linden Lea (1901), his first popular success, is entirely syllabic. His restraint in this respect is certainly not an influence of folk song which frequently uses the device.

A syllable is usually described as melismatic if it is set to several notes. The effect of this is to extend the syllable beyond its natural length, as measured in terms of speech rhythm. This device is employed to highlight or illustrate particular words in a text.

Ex. 11: "ring" from Bredon Hill (On Wenlock Edge)

In Ex. 11, from Bredon Hill, the third song in Vaughan Williams's song cycle On Wenlock Edge (1908-9), the word "ring" is set to notes that mimic a peal of bells.

Whereas Vaughan Williams is so reluctant to add notes to a syllable incidentally, he regularly uses melisma as an expressive device in his word setting. By contrast melisma is almost completely unused by Elgar. When he wishes to lengthen the speech rhythm of a syllable he invariably does so with a single long note.

What is the explanation for these differences? Elgar's use of incidental extra notes is so much a part of the tradition from which he springs that it requires no explanation but why does Vaughan Williams avoid using them? It is interesting to note that, in this one respect, Vaughan Williams is closer than Elgar to the aesthetic of Wagner and this may not be a coincidence. Vaughan Williams was passionately concerned with creating a true marriage of words and music in his work and he may well have believed, as Wagner did, that to use this device was, in some way, "cheating" - a means of shoe-horning text into a melody that it did not really quite fit.

As for melisma, Vaughan Williams's use of this almost certainly derives from his studies of Renaissance music. Melisma was one of the most important expressive devices throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods but fell gradually into disuse thereafter. For Elgar, whose style is essentially late Romantic, melisma perhaps felt anachronistic.

The next aspect for comparison is the two composers' willingness to depart from speech rhythms for the purposes of musical expression.

Mention has already been made of the potential conflict between the internal logic of a text and that of the musical ideas in a piece. In fact the balance of power between the words and the music can vary from bar to bar at times. Both Elgar and Vaughan Williams are prepared to allow slight distortions of speech rhythm at times when the musical logic is compelling. In Sabbath Morning at Sea we find the passage:

Ex 12: Elgar: Sea Pictures, No. 3 - Sabbath Morning at Sea, bars 13-17

Click here to hear Ex. 12 performed by Claire-Louise Lucas (mezzo-soprano) and Jonathan Darnborough (piano)

This passage is syllabic but it is also intensely lyrical. If one were to say these words then "pre-sent" would be two short syllables.In Elgar's setting, however, the musical logic is for each bar to have the same rhythm and, in this instance, Elgar allows the musical logic to override the speech rhythm.

In Vaughan Williams's The Water Mill we find something very similar in the opening verse. In this case Vaughan Williams is also allowing a rhythm to be repeated:

Ex. 13: "the Miller's house" - Water Mill - vocal line - musical logic.sib

This rhythm fits "the Miller's house" and it fits "and in July" but it does not quite fit "is joined with it" because "it" receives undue stress, landing on the first beat of a bar. The singer has to be aware of these things and has not to come down heavily on beat one. This is just one example of the importance of the performer's studying the text and knowing what is actually being set.

Part of the essential craft of any song writer, indeed of any composer, is the variation of phrase lengths. In a song this variation is a response to analogous variations in the text and it is a key element in the musical expression of the text. Not surprisingly both Elgar and Vaughan Williams show themselves to be masters of this aspect of their craft.

One can find examples of this in almost any of Elgar's songs but a well-known example is In Haven, from the Sea Pictures.

Ex. 14: Vocal line of verse 1 of In Haven

This song has a deceptive air of simplicity about it but the subtlety of Elgar's setting may be seen in the way that the phrases grow progressively in length through the verse. The first phrase is exactly two bars long, the second is two-and-a-half bars long and the third phrase lasts for three-and-a-half bars, extended by the two long notes that Elgar uses to set the word "stand".

Looking, for comparison, to Vaughan Williams now we can take the first verse of The Water Mill:

Ex 15: Water Mill - vocal line - period structure.sib

Click here to hear Ex. 15 performed by Claire-Louise Lucas (mezzo-soprano) and Jonathan Darnborough (piano)

Vaughan Williams starts the melody with a straightforward four bar phrase. The following phrase manages to extend to a fifth bar at which point it could finish but, in fact Vaughan Williams continues to pay out the melodic line to the words "to and fro, in and out, round the windows all about". After "sun" in bar 4, no further cadence point is reached until the end of this passage.

If one wished to set this verse using four bar phrases throughout, it could be done as follows:

Ex 16: Water Mill - vocal line - sq.sib

This example sets every syllable to the same notes as Vaughan Williams uses, so the only difference is in the phrase structure. The result is not so satisfactory. There is quite clearly a slight distortion of the word "windows" - one wouldn't naturally linger on the "win" of "windows" - but the main objection to this setting is its banality. It is simply too predictable.

As we saw in the opening of The Water Mill, Vaughan Williams uses a change of metre (the bar of 4/4) to help capture the speech rhythm of his text. The technique of changing metre allows a composer much greater flexibility in the placing of rhythmic stresses. On the face of it, this appears to be one technique that Elgar does not use, except perhaps occasionally at the ends of phrases, where the stresses within phrases are not affected - for example in Speak Music.

Ex. 17: bars 16 - 19 of Speak Music

On closer inspection, however, we find that Elgar is by no means a hostage to the regularity of stress implied by an unchanging metre. Take, for example, the following passage from In Moonlight. Of interest here is the way that Elgar handles the word "tender" in bars 17-18. In his setting the second syllable lands on the downbeat of bar 18 which would appear to stress the wrong syllable.

Ex. 18: In Moonlight - bars 16 - 21

Click here to hear Ex. 18 performed by Claire-Louise Lucas (mezzo-soprano) and Jonathan Darnborough (piano)

Can Elgar's sensitivity to language have deserted him? Certainly, if one were placing strong stresses on the first beats of bars then this passage would seem very clumsy. On closer inspection, however, we find no fewer than five special markings in the score that Elgar has added in order to ensure that the singer will perform this passage with stresses appropriate to the text.

Elgar's measures for ensuring that the tyranny of the beat does not upset the expression of the word are as follows:

  • an espressivo marking in b. 17
  • an accent on the Bb of "ten-" in b. 17
  • an ad lib marking over the vocal line at the beginning of b. 18
  • colla parte marked in the piano part in b. 18
  • a crescendo over the vocal line from "To" to "strings" in b. 18, in effect displacing the stress in this bar to the second half of the bar
  • What this passage teaches us is that Elgar is clearly not a slave to the stress of the first beat and this is a useful thing to know about him because it can inform our interpretation of his music in other contexts.

    There is another other way in which this passage could be set, as shown in the following example. Here "So thy voice..." is now the start of a 9/8 bar and on "soul" the music reverts to 6/8.

    Ex. 19: In Moonlight + metre change.sib

    Had Vaughan Williams been setting this passage he might have adopted this approach. Such changes of metre are meat and drink to the composers of the twentieth century - but rather less conventional for the composers of the nineteenth century tradition, from whom Elgar learnt his compositional craft. Elgar has simply told the singer very clearly how to sing this passage and, specifically, not to place too much emphasis on the first beat of the bar. The difference between the two composers on this point is purely a matter of notation.


    In conclusion we have found that Elgar and Vaughan Williams have an enormous amount in common as writers of English song. This common ground is undoubtedly concealed by their differences in both musical style and choice of texts. Such differences between the two composers need come as no surprise when we consider their contrasting temperaments and backgrounds but in the final analysis they both approach their texts with similar sensitivity and craftsmanship. As a result, their songs are beautifully moulded to the natural speech rhythms and inflections of the poetry that they set, producing some of the most beautiful songs in the English repertoire.